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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: The Who, the Fags and more

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, October 29, 2006

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The Who “Endless Wire” Universal Republic **1/2

Nothing quite stokes expectations like a 24-year wait from a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band. We haven’t heard an album’s worth of new music from The Who since “It’s Hard” in 1982, and much has changed in the interim. In fact, the musical question “Who Are You?” has never been more apt, as the surviving duo of Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey is a far different concern than The Who’s previous incarnations — which doesn’t necessarily hamper “Endless Wire.” Shorn of the fury provided by the late rhythm section of Keith Moon and John Entwistle, what is now effectively the Townshend-Daltrey Band wisely diverges from many of The Who’s sonic trademarks, giving “Endless Wire” the feel of an ambitious new band that happens to have a significant history, or of a Townshend solo album sung mostly by Daltrey. While The Who’s acoustic side has always been underappreciated, Townshend, adding mandolin and banjo to his instrumental arsenal, employs even more of it on “Endless” wire, particularly on the rootsy “Two Thousand Years” and the stark “Man in a Purple Dress” and “You Stand By Me.” “Fragments” begins with a synthesizer tattoo similar to “Baba O’Riley,” while the 10-part “miniopera” “Wire & Glass,” oblique lyricism aside, sports a caché of catchy ideas — including some for those who crave the electric side of The Who. And the richly arranged “It’s Not Enough” houses a particularly strong guitar solo by Townshend. “Are we leaving life or moving in?,” Daltrey sings in “Fragments,” but the really answer is that they’re moving on — just as they should.

The Fags “Light ’Em Up” Idol ***1/2

This is an album the Detroit rock scene has been awaiting for five or six years, ever since Hoarse members John Speck (ne Liccardello) and Jimmy Paluzzi joined forces with ace producer (and bassist) Tim Patalan. The group’s self-titled 2002 EP only stoked that anticipation further, and “Light ’Em Up,” delayed by an illfated major label deal, delivers most everything we could have expected from the trio — whose name, they say (with a wink), references British slang for cigarettes. Its 11 songs are power pop heaven, showcases for Speck’s sturdy melodies and the group’s dynamic arrangements. “Truly, Truly” (one of two songs reprised from the EP), “Snap” and “Rockstar” are bona fi de classics. Cheap Trick would love to have “Tonite” in its ouvre, while “Here’s Looking at You” is what the Goo Goo Dolls would sound like if they hadn’t forgotten they were once a punk band. “Light ’Em Up” merits nothing less than a spot high in the pantheon of great Detroit rock albums.

New and noteworthy

Ron Artest, “My World”

(Truwarier/Lightyear) — Nothing gets the hoops season off to a good start quite like a new rap album. Just ask Shaq.

Birdman/Lil Wayne, “Like Father, Like Son”

(Cash Money) — Two of the Dirty South’s hottest thrown down with pals Chamillionaire, Lil Jon, Fat Joe, Chingy and others.

Tracy Byrd, “Different Things” (Rocket Science/ A2M) — The country singer continues to plow an independent path on his 11th release.

Copeland, “Eat, Sleep, Repeat” (Militia Group) — Third album from the inventive Florida indie rockers.

deftones, “Saturday Night Wrist” (Maverick) — The headbangers’ latest is the result of a protracted production process that included, among others, the legendary Bob Ezrin.

Kevin Federline, “Playing With Fire”

(Reincarnate Music) — Just hang on a minute while we consider all the funny things we can say about this one. ...

Flavor Flav, “Flavor Flav” (Draytown) — The Public Enemy jokester’s solo debut, for those who want a little sound to go with their “Flavor of Love.”

Lady Sovereign, “Public Warning” (Def Jam) — The debut set from the spirited British MC who makes Scary Spice look like a Beanie Baby.

Barry Manilow, “Greatest Songs of the Sixties” (Arista) — The guy who makes the young girls cry makes the next logical move after taking the ’50s to the top of the charts last year.

Meat Loaf, “Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose” (Virgin) — The heavyweight singer’s multiplatinum concept takes wing for a third time. Be very afraid ... (See story, Page C-4).

Willie Nelson, “Songbird” (Lost Highway) — Ryan Adams produced this set, which features covers of songs by the Grateful Dead, Gram Parsons, Fleetwood Mac and Leonard Cohen.

Pitbull, “El Mariel”

(TVT) — The Cuban-born rapper’s politically charged sophomore album includes guest shots from Diddy, Wyclef Jean, Lil Jon, Twista and Mario.

Joe Satriani, “Satriani Live!” (Red Ink) — The kind of pyrotechnic instrumental display that will make you drop your jaw. And your guitar.

Soundtrack, “Music From the Motion Picture: Happy Feet” (Atlantic) — A new song by Prince highlights this set of newly recorded covers by Pink, Jason Mraz, k.d. lang and actors Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and Brittany Murphy.

Robbie Williams, “Rudebox” (EMI) — Still looking to make a mark on these shores, the British hitmaker works with Pet Shop Boys, William Orbit and others on his latest release.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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